Sunday, March 27, 2005

Shock Horror...Home Educated children do learn to deal with risk.

One of the persistant criticisms of Home Education and of actually listening to the desires and questions of children in particular, is that such parents are depriving their children of the experience of risk and hardship.

Of course, we are all variously bad at catching ourselves in our own contradictions, and this criticism is no exception. The critics, ie those in favour of traditional coercive parenting, insist that in order for children to learn to cope in the world, they must be exposed to various types of hardship. Putting aside the merits of this argument, the same traditionally coercive parents will then say that our children should not be listened to in some circumstances because they don't actually know what is best for them. ie: we must significantly reduce risk and hardship in children's lives.

This argument, aside from being blatantly contradictory, also ignores the glaringly obvious evidence that children, by both accident and design, actually choose risk and hardship in their lives. Children like going out in the cold without clothes; they like turning somersaults on stunt bikes; they like sliding downstairs on bits of cardboard. They even like choosing the sort of risks of which parents would most often unquestioningly approve, such as sticking up to bullies, or following through on course work, or taking exams, (though how coercive parents would know this, I am not sure).

Of course, I am not saying that we should abandon children to wanton, dangerous and unintentional experience of risk and hardship. To do so would be neglectful and coercive to boot. What I am saying is that we can, in listening and advising our children, help them experience and deal with challenges completely within a non-coercive relationship. There is absolutely no need to got out to find hardship and risk, since not only do these things pop up all over the place anyway, (for example, as implied in the original criticism, HE children often have to deal with criticisms of their choice of education), but children will, often as not, actually choose to meet challenges of these sorts.

What is more, when children actively choose to meet these scenarios, they will be all the more ready to deal with them creatively and rationally, since being their choice, they will genuinely be engaged with the problem of solving the issues...unlike the poor kids, who wearily, drearily, uncreatively consign themselves to years of submission to hardship without any hope that they
can possibly solve the situation.

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